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I have watched restaurant operators obsess over every single Open Table comment and sulk over a negative Yelp review. How is this productive? Anyone have advice on how to keep this constant stream of feedback and criticism in perspective?

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  • Two things come to mind:

    People that pay for things never complain. It's the guy you give something to that you can't please. ~Will Rogers

    I can live for two months on a good compliment. ~Mark Twain
  • I think its totally productive. The rule for the restaurant industry is "If you lose 1 customer, you lose 10 customers." I believe that with all my heart. WOM is VITAL to your restaurant. By getting into those forums and responding to those comments you are engaging negative comments. Every time you turn a negative into a positive, you gain 10 customers (or keep from losing them). What you think?
  • As business owners, it's our nature to take criticism harshly and obsess over it. After all our business is our baby. But it should be viewed by the operator as a valued tool. An open line of dialogue and criticism using social media gives the operator a chance to uncover negative trends (not isolated incidents) in his/her restaurant and fix them. We all know we can't please everyone. There will always be that percentage of customers you cannot please. That's a given. If you walked out of a restaurant with spaghetti sauce on your face... wouldn't you want someone to tell you? Or would you prefer to be blissfully ignorant of the fact? Social media let's people tell you that you've got spaghetti sauce on your face. You can wipe it off and move on before the next ten people see it. What a useful tool!
    • This is exactly what we do at Indiana Market & Catering. You will occasionally run into clients who are just going to be unhappy no matter what you deliver -- and you're ultimately going to do more harm than good to your business by obsessing over these people. That said, I do keep a list of what I call "breakdowns" in service/food at parties -- when I notice a pattern of problems, I investigate where the source lies and root it out.

      There's a lot to be said for calm, methodical considerations of issues and problems, instead of panicked reactions to isolated bad reviews.
    • Nicely balanced, level-headed advice, David. Thank you for your wisdom!
  • There is an old and effective prescription for dealing with this malady.

    Take with a grain of salt.

    Customers have that power without these sites. It's called word of mouth

    It is possible that a comment could be posted with ill intent. Readers should, and probably, do, keep that in mind.

    Overall I think these comment sites keep us on our toes and spur us to greater vigilance and training.

    At least - they should.
  • Good question. Maybe remind the operators that everybody has these types of opinions, however, it's much easier to share them these days? Or, focus on what you can improve, and leave the rest behind?

    That's a tough one.
    • I think that restaurants (any business, for that matter) should have a procedure in place for processing reviews and customer feedback that prevents/minimizes obsessive focus and needless self-loathing. A critical Yelp review can put a restaurant's staff into a tailspin (I've seen it happen). Why would you want to give that much power to your customer? Keeping things in perspective is very difficult when guests are able to crush your reputation with a few strokes of a keyboard.
      • Yeah, and often anonymously.
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